Settlement negotiated in raw milk case
With the help of the Institute of Justice, a national advocacy group that challenges government regulations it considers oppressive, Anderson filed a lawsuit against Katy Coba, director of the Oregon Department of Agriculture, in November. Late last week, a settlement was reached.
Oregon law allows the sale of raw milk by a person owning no more than three dairy cows that have calved at least once, nine sheep that have lactated at least once, or nine goats that have lactated at least once, but only if that person sells directly to the consumer from the premises where the milk was produced, and without benefit of any advertising.
Sale by larger producers is strictly forbidden. So is sale through markets or other middlemen.
Anderson challenged the legality of the ban on advertising, arguing it violated the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, guaranteeing freedom of speech.
In the settlement, ODA agrees to seek repeal of the ban in the Oregon Legislature’s 2015 session and discontinue enforcement in the meantime. The signatories were attorneys Michael Bindas, representing the Institute of Justice, and Carla Scott, representing the Oregon Department of Justice.
Coba immediately sent out a directive to the ODA’s food safety staff discontinuing enforcement of the provision at issue.
Oregon statue makes violation of raw milk rules a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail, $6,250 in fines and $10,000 in civil penalties. However, Bruce Pokarney, communications director for the ODA, said no jail time or civil penalties have ever been ordered in response to a violation.
Filing of the lawsuit catapulted Anderson into the national spotlight. She said it’s been a wild two-month ride.
“Part of the problem with this case is that because of the lack of advertising, people were starved for a source of information,” she said. Because the publicity shone a spotlight on her, she said, “I’ve been inundated with communications.”
Now that she no longer faces potential sanctions, Anderson has posted much new information on her website. She hopes that will deflect some of the questions she’s been getting.
“I’m really excited,” she said. “The state of Oregon saw our side and changed the senseless law.”
For Anderson, the issue came to a head over the posting of her $14 a gallon asking price. Now it’s back up.
She said she received much support from her fellow producers, who shared her frustration. She said they have filled her Facebook page with messages of congratulations and thanks.
“It was a really great experience,” Anderson said, and ended exactly the way she hoped it would.
“I was secretly hoping to settle it,” she said. “Nobody is excited about going into litigation.”